Polar bear spotted in Russian city, far from normal habitat

Updated June 19, 2019

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A wild polar bear walks on a road on the outskirts of the Russian industrial city of Norilsk on June 17. ─ AFP
A wild polar bear walks on a road on the outskirts of the Russian industrial city of Norilsk on June 17. ─ AFP

An emaciated polar bear has been sighted in a Russian industrial city in Siberia, far south of its normal hunting grounds.

Emergency officials in the city of Norilsk in a statement on Tuesday warned local residents about a bear that has been spotted in one city district.

Anatoly Nikolaychyuk, chief of the local hunting department, told the Tass news agency that the last time a polar bear was seen in the area around Norilsk was more than 40 years ago.

He said that local officials will now decide whether they can catch the animal and airlift it back to the north.

The Siberian Times quoted Nikolaychyuk saying: "We got as close as 20 metres, and the animal didn't react to the noise of the car. We decided not to go out of the car ─ after all polar bears can jump up to six metres high. He looks quite healthy, of an average body built."

However, a photographer quoted by The Independent, Irina Yarinskaya ─ who photographed the bear as it looked for food ─ saying that the animal was "seriously hunger-bitten".

Yarinskaya, who is associated with the Zapolyarnaya Pravda newspaper, said: "He is hardly able to blink and keep his eyes open, almost unable to walk."

"He was lying for a long time, having a rest, then he crossed the road and entered the industrial zone. He went towards the gravel and sand factory first, then he crossed one more road and headed to a dump," she added.

Environmentalists say wild animals are suffering from the shrinking hunting environment and the receding ice as the Arctic is getting warmer, and some of them have ventured south in search of food.

The United Nations climate chief on Monday had described climate change as an "existential issue" for humankind, saying that urgent effort is needed to restrict global warming to the globally agreed limits.

The Paris Agreement, now ratified by 185 countries, set a goal to limit the rise in average global temperatures to “well below” 2C and to strive for 1.5C. Temperatures have increased by about 1C already.

The UN climate head said that existing country pledges to planet-warming emissions would heat the planet by 3C from pre-industrial times, which would leave people sicker and result in battles over resources such as water and land.